Posts Tagged ‘Kyrgyzstan’


When the climb is over 2200m (about the height of Mt Kosiosko – the highest mountain in Australia), it takes some time. Gastroniza sleeps, bee stings, icy river swims, watching milk being separated. And the ever uphill crawl. Still not at the summit yet.

Honey

Honey

Still hot for the most part (until I reached high enough), the day was punctuated by stops at some of the many many restaurants, usually followed by a sleep. I’m still never hungry, but I know I must eat. I force things down, and hope the lack of appetite is due to the heat.

When I wasn’t passing a restaurant, I was passing people selling honey. And where there’s honey, there are bees. One stung me – my first ever bee sting. For a few minutes I was worrying – what if I am allergic. It turns out I am spectacularly not allergic to bee stings.

Bee sting

Bee sting

As I got higher, the number of yurts increased. As the sun was getting lower, I was looking for a nice spot to set up my tent – all the nice spots are taken up by yurts.. ☺ So I asked if I could camp near a yurt on the river. Of course. I even got shown how to separate milk into cream and the rest. And some kymys – fermented mare’s milk.


The world is a different place when you are well. The climbs are not long, the heat is not stifling, and the views are lovely. I skirted the Toktogul lake from on high, admiring its blue waters with a backdrop of rugged, dry, chalky mountains.

Toktogul lake

Toktogul lake

As Will had warned me, the road was not flat. I’m not sure why, but the road constantly went into the hills behind the lake, rising and falling, but affording beautiful views. By myself, I went at my own speed, and started at my own time – 6am. I have confirmed that I am a morning person. ☺

Morning

Morning


Will gets his nourishment from chocolate, chips and energy drinks. Oh. And eggs. Fruit is a big no-no, and most other healthy things. But I am the one with diahorrea – again. I have lost all shame. Emergency toilet stops on the side of the road with no place to hide from the traffic – no worries. I can shit anywhere – and do.

The view over the dam

The view over the dam

Today was up-down-up-down-up-down-up-down. We climbed above the dam wall, and then skirted the dam between 100 and 200m above the water. All in the blazing sun. It was beautiful, but, feeling sick, it seemed relentless – every 12% climb followed by a 12% drop.

Roadside restaurants popped up at 17km and then again at 55km. With no shade, we pushed on until about 4 to the one at 55km, at which point I flopped into the sofa, took some antibiotics, slept, and visited the toilet.

View from the toilet

View from the toilet

Tomorrow is another rest day. Kim and Will left – being on a tight schedule, but not before demolishing 8 eggs each.

8 eggs each

8 eggs each


At altitude I lost my appetite. Today I lost my appetite due to the heat. The contrast in climate is spectacular. Today was back to the ritual of having a 3 hour afternoon sleep. For the heat, and relief from the boredom of the straight road through hot farmland.

Afternoon sleep

Afternoon sleep

We cycled through melon land today. Everyone was selling watermelons, and some were also selling rock melons. Often there were stretches of road with sellers on both sides, sleeping on couch sofas unter the trees or under little verandah lean-tos.

We are now in the mountains again – at least there are mountains around us, and we will climb slowly now following the valley. I’m looking forward to gaining some altitude and losing some heat.


‘On top of the price of the room you will have to pay for the shower.’
That was OK.
‘Oh. And it costs extra to store the bikes.’
This was after we had unpacked and already agreed on the price.
We left, and now find ourself sleeping on a couch outside in an expensive holiday resort for rich Russians. The universe provided a strange place to sleep tonight.

Sunset

Sunset

Will and Kim had left Osh a day earlier, and stayed overnight 55km from Osh. I thought I could try to catch them – I like cycling with them. The weather was fine for that, and the scenery was boring. Endless fields and farms. I put my head down and cycled. 130km out of Osh I caught them. We can now cycle together to Bishkek.

Watermelons

Watermelons


Last night I visited the toilet (different rocks near the tent) five times. Today was a blur – feeling awful, struggling up a steep 800m climb, regularly diving into the bushes on the side of the road for a shit. Exhausted, I collapsed into the sofa at the guesthouse in Osh. Now I can take the antibiotics.

Looking down the high pass

Looking down the high pass

I need a break. Osh – the 2nd biggest city in Kyrgyzstan seemed like a good place to have it. And, at about 1000m altitude, its just a short ride downhill. This morning I didn’t feel well, but, I could surely manage the last pass before Osh, and then roll down the hill. I didn’t want a rest day in a tent with nothing nice to eat. Checking the information on the antibiotic pills, I discovered that they make you very light sensitive. Ah! That’s why I got burnt in Uzbekistan! Today would have to be ridden without antibiotics.

Now at lower altitudes, it is hotter. And the pass before Osh is a monster climb (on an excellent road) up about 800m (very steep). Well, that completely took it out of me, and at the top I was a dribbling mess. There was a restaurant at the top (a luxury) with meat, bread and tea on offer. I couldn’t stomach that, and so just had a few sips of tea.

Already 16:00, we sprinted the last 60km downhill into Osh. Thankfully there was little headwind today, and we were able to make haste. Two or three toilet stops, some stomach pills, and some volcanic ash powder later, we arrived, where I took a luxury single room, took my antibiotics, and went to bed.


Today was sheep migration day. Herded by shepherds on horses, the wall of sheep advanced up the valley. And we advanced down the valley. Down and down several climate zones into a different temperate – and green – world.

The road to Osh

The road to Osh

Kyrgyzstan is a different world. Green, steep slopes with horses grazing. The mountains, with rocky outcrops, reminded me of the Dolomites in Italy rather than the barren, windswept plains of the Pamir Plateau. Everywhere there were yurts, and people with horses and sheep. On the side of the road were little boys selling fermented mare’s milk. For the record, it is not my taste..

Fermented mare's milk

Fermented mare’s milk

Krygyzstan feels wealthier and more western. There are more (modern) cars and the road surface is immaculate. We saw road signs indicating where roads go, including distances. This is a rare thing in central Asia. There were marked picnic spots on the side of the road, and accurate ascent and descent signs. Unfortunately, the headwind has been imported over from Tajikistan which slowed an otherwise fabulous descent from the cold, windswept high mountain plateau (over 4000m) to our end destination (tomorrow) of Osh (around 1000m).

Nice road surface

Nice road surface

We have a lovely little camp spot next to the raging river. Tomorrow on to Osh.


The weather threw everything at us as we left the roof of the world. Our headwind remained. It snowed over the pass on the border with Kyrgyzstan, and pissed down as we descended. Then the sun broke, the tailwind was rolled out, and we crossed the most spectacular valley flanked with massive snowy peaks. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan.

Looking back at the Pamirs

Looking back at the Pamirs

One of my favourite videos is ‘The Road to Karakol’. A mountaineer cycles around Kyrgyzstan, climbing peaks, and nearly dying as he has to cross a raging river. The video is funny, the scenery is spectacular, and it gets me emotional whenever I see it. In one scene, the cyclist has a race with a little boy on a horse. Today I saw that little boy on a horse, shepherding his sheep. Cycling down across a wide valley with spectacular mountains as a backdrop, I couldn’t help but think about the film. I am here in Kyrgyzstan, in the ‘Switzerland of Central Asia’.

Horseboy

Horseboy

The descent was muddy and wet.

Precarious dunny

Precarious dunny

Mixing of colours

Mixing of colours

The little town of Sarytash felt like a small step back to civilization. There were shops with things to buy, and it all felt a bit wealthier. Still no showers, though.

Sarytash

Sarytash